‘I do get truculent sometimes. As you know.’ So wrote the American novelist William Gaddis (1922–98) to his mother in 1950, before anybody, except perhaps Gaddis himself, suspected him of greatness. The Letters of William Gaddis, edited by prominent Gaddis scholar Steven Moore, might easily have been called Truculent Sometimes. A big book, as befits Gaddis, it contains plenty of his exquisite complaining. The language is boisterous yet precise, sometimes pained, sometimes brutal, sometimes tender – but, regardless of mood, very funny.